By Sunita Menon and Diaa Hadid, Staff Reporters
Dubai: An uneducated labourer in the UAE can overnight become a high school graduate for a mere Dh300.
Aspiring to a graduate degree is not impossible either all it takes is a little more money, at Dh800.
A flourishing forged degree industry operates undercover and capitalises by exploiting the floating labour market where the unskilled do not have any educational or travel documents on them.
Most of these unskilled labourers are painfully unaware of the changes made by the Labour Ministry with regard to the criteria required by the skilled and unskilled labour sector for employment.
Many jobs in the UAE, though not all, require an educational certificate, but most newcomers to the country are uncertain what certificate is required of them. The certificate forgery industry thrives on this uncertainty.
They also find a ready and willing clientele. Many labourers said they do not mind spending money for a fake certificate.
To get an idea of how the forged degree industry operates, Gulf News got in touch with a labourer who has got himself a fake certificate. "You can only meet the pointman after 11 pm. But I will introduce you as a cousin.
"Please do not ask any questions that would raise suspicions. Dress inconspicuously will you, and talk less. You are supposed to speak only in Malayalam or Hindi," warned the labourer.
The point man, an Indian who works as a helper in a cafeteria and earns Dh300 a month, arrived driving an old Toyota car. The meeting place was in a cafeteria that was located in the Sharjah industrial area.
After the initial introductions, the pointman asked this reporter in Malayalam whether she was looking for a job.
"Let us know. We are here to help you," he said .
Asked about his business, the pointman said: "Your brother here knows everything (pointing to the labourer standing next to this reporter).
"I arrange certificates for poor labourers. Business is not done with anyone and everyone. We have to be very careful. I make certain that the client is genuine and is not someone who is out to get us. It involves a lot of risk," he said.
Asked how he gets the certificates made, he said: "It is easy for a diploma or degree certificate holder to get a job. We have about nine people working in this business, five of them Asians, the rest Arabs.
"Those people who need an educational certificate approach us. We send their requirements overseas to our agents and within a month our clients get their certificates delivered. It is a risky job," he said.
According to the point- man, he does not take any client to meet the others in the business with him. "The workers are aware that we take a lot of risk in getting them an educational certificate. They too are very careful."
The point man went on to explain that he came to the UAE 12 years ago and how he survived the initial years changing one job after another.
"Let me know if you need any help, for you I will give a discount, no problem," said the pointman before speeding off into the night.
– Diploma certificate: Dh500
– High school certificate: Dh300
– Degree certificate: Dh800
– Secondary School Certificate: Dh250
– The racket is run by individuals who have a network established overseas.
– The educational certificates are delivered within one month to the client. The clientele includes primarily unskilled labourers.
Deportation for expats with fake certificates
At least 25 expatriates have used forged university degrees since the verification system was introduced through Empost to check the authenticity of educational certificates.
Ahmad Kajour, Under-Secretary for Planning at the Labour Ministry, said he was informed of at least 25 cases where expatriates had submitted their educational degrees to Empost for verification, and which were found to be forged.
"That included a man who claimed to have studied at Glasgow University," he said.
Kajour declined to specify other cases, but said it showed the verification system was working well.
Expatriates who are found to have forged educational degrees are to be deported, labour officials had earlier said.